IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/wrk/warwec/1186.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Historical Analysis of National Subjective Wellbeing using millions of Digitized Books

Author

Listed:
  • Hills, Thomas

    (Department of Psychology, University of Warwick)

  • Proto, Eugenio

    (Department of Economics, University of Warwick, CAGE and IZA)

  • Sgroi, Daniel

    (Department of Economics, University of Warwick, CAGE and Nuffield College, University of Oxford)

Abstract

We develop a new way to measure national subjective well-being across the very long run where traditional survey data on well-being is not available. Our method is based on quantitative analysis of digitized text from millions of books published over the past 200 years, long before the widespread availability of consistent survey data. The method uses psychological valence norms for thousands of words in different languages to compute the relative proportion of positive and negative language for four different nations (the USA, UK, Germany and Italy). We validate our measure against existing survey data from the 1970s onwards (when such data became available) showing that our measure is highly correlated with surveyed life satisfaction. We also validate our measure against historical trends in longevity and GDP (showing a positive relationship) and conflict (showing a negative relationship). Our measure allows a first look at changes in subjective well-being over the past two centuries, for instance highlighting the dramatic fall in well-being during the two World Wars and rise in relation to longevity.

Suggested Citation

  • Hills, Thomas & Proto, Eugenio & Sgroi, Daniel, 2019. "Historical Analysis of National Subjective Wellbeing using millions of Digitized Books," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1186, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:1186
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/workingpapers/2019/twerp_1186_sgroi.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Angus Deaton, 2008. "Income, Health, and Well-Being around the World: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(2), pages 53-72, Spring.
    2. Stephen Broadberry & Bruce Campbell & Alexander Klein & Mark Overton & Bas van Leeuwen, 2012. "British Economic Growth, 1270-1870: an output-based approach," Studies in Economics 1203, School of Economics, University of Kent.
    3. Mike Thelwall & Kevan Buckley & Georgios Paltoglou, 2011. "Sentiment in Twitter events," Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 62(2), pages 406-418, February.
    4. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
    5. Jutta Bolt & Jan Luiten Zanden, 2014. "The Maddison Project: collaborative research on historical national accounts," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(3), pages 627-651, August.
    6. repec:pri:cheawb:deaton_income_health_and_wellbeing_around_the_world_evidence_%20from_gall is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Mike Thelwall & Kevan Buckley & Georgios Paltoglou, 2011. "Sentiment in Twitter events," Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 62(2), pages 406-418, February.
    8. Daniel J. Benjamin & Ori Heffetz & Miles S. Kimball & Alex Rees-Jones, 2012. "What Do You Think Would Make You Happier? What Do You Think You Would Choose?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(5), pages 2083-2110, August.
    9. M. Keith Chen, 2011. "The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1820, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Dec 2012.
    10. Peter Dodds & Christopher Danforth, 2010. "Measuring the Happiness of Large-Scale Written Expression: Songs, Blogs, and Presidents," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 441-456, August.
    11. M. Keith Chen, 2013. "The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(2), pages 690-731, April.
    12. Jerven, Morten, 2012. "An unlevel playing field: national income estimates and reciprocal comparison in global economic history," Journal of Global History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(1), pages 107-128, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Rossouw, Stephanie & Greyling, Talita, 2020. "Big Data and Happiness," GLO Discussion Paper Series 634, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    2. Mohsen Joshanloo & Veljko Jovanović & Tim Taylor, 2019. "A multidimensional understanding of prosperity and well-being at country level: Data-driven explorations," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(10), pages 1-31, October.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Andrew E. Clark, 2018. "Four Decades of the Economics of Happiness: Where Next?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 64(2), pages 245-269, June.
    2. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & George Ward & Femke De Keulenaer & Bert Van Landeghem & Georgios Kavetsos & Michael I. Norton, 2018. "The Asymmetric Experience of Positive and Negative Economic Growth: Global Evidence Using Subjective Well-Being Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 100(2), pages 362-375, May.
    3. Dolan, Paul & Kavetsos, Georgios & Krekel, Christian & Mavridis, Dimitris & Metcalfe, Robert & Senik, Claudia & Szymanski, Stefan & Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2019. "Quantifying the intangible impact of the Olympics using subjective well-being data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 177(C), pages 1-1.
    4. Bahadır Dursun & Resul Cesur, 2016. "Transforming lives: the impact of compulsory schooling on hope and happiness," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(3), pages 911-956, July.
    5. Proto, Eugenio & Rustichini, Aldo, 2012. "Life Satisfaction, Household Income and Personality Traits," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 988, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    6. Easterlin, Richard A. & Angelescu McVey, Laura & Switek, Malgorzata & Sawangfa, Onnicha & Zweig, Jacqueline Smith, 2011. "The Happiness-Income Paradox Revisited," IZA Discussion Papers 5799, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Andrew E. Clark, 2015. "SWB as a Measure of Individual Well-Being," Working Papers halshs-01134483, HAL.
    8. Dorsett, Richard & Oswald, Andrew J., 2014. "Human Well-being and In-Work Benefits: A Randomized Controlled Trial," IZA Discussion Papers 7943, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    9. Eugenio Proto & Andrew J. Oswald, 2015. "National Happiness and Genetic Distance: A Cautious Exploration," CESifo Working Paper Series 5659, CESifo.
    10. Ma, Jie & Tse, Ying Kei & Wang, Xiaojun & Zhang, Minhao, 2019. "Examining customer perception and behaviour through social media research – An empirical study of the United Airlines overbooking crisis," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 192-205.
    11. Easterlin, Richard A. & Angelescu McVey, Laura, 2009. "Happiness and Growth the World Over: Time Series Evidence on the Happiness-Income Paradox," IZA Discussion Papers 4060, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Stefano Bartolini & Francesco Sarracino, 2014. "It's not the economy, stupid! How social capital and GDP relate to happiness over time," Papers 1411.2138, arXiv.org.
    13. Sergei Guriev & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2009. "(Un)happiness in Transition," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 143-168, Spring.
    14. BARTOLINI Stefano & SARRACINO Francesco, 2011. "Happy for How Long? How Social Capital and GDP relate to Happiness over Time," LISER Working Paper Series 2011-60, LISER.
    15. Proto, Eugenio & Rustichini, Aldo, 2015. "Life satisfaction, income and personality," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 17-32.
    16. Angerer, Silvia & Glätzle-Rützler, Daniela & Lergetporer, Philipp & Sutter, Matthias, 2015. "Donations, risk attitudes and time preferences: A study on altruism in primary school children," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 67-74.
    17. Arik Levinson, 2013. "Happiness as a Public Policy Tool," Working Papers gueconwpa~13-13-04, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
    18. Layard, Richard & Mayraz, Guy & Nickell, Stephen, 2009. "Does relative income matter? Are the critics right?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28594, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    19. Sahil & Sandeep Kumar Sood, 0. "Bibliometric monitoring of research performance in ICT-based disaster management literature," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-30.
    20. Andrew E. Clark & Claudia Senik, 2010. "Will GDP growth increase happiness in developing countries?," PSE Working Papers halshs-00564985, HAL.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    historical subjective well-being ; language ; big data ; GDP ; conflict;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:1186. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Margaret Nash). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/dewaruk.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.